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Profiles in the Financial Aid Profession: Eric Miller from Beam Reach Education

April 16, 2012

Eric Miller, Director of Default Prevention, Beam Reach Education

Dawn Knight: What are you most proud of with your financial aid office?

Eric Miller: I am most proud that everyone is onboard with taking a more proactive approach regarding financial literacy and setting students up for financial success when they leave our campuses. Our default prevention efforts have been well accepted and are truly starting to make a big difference.

Dawn: What has been the biggest challenge for your office over the past 12 months?

Eric: Creating and implementing a centralized and effective default prevention strategy for all of our campuses. We have incorporated marketing materials and financial literacy materials throughout the campus to promote awareness of our department. We also developed a strategy that provides more focus on the tools and resources available to students during the repayment process.

Dawn: What is your favorite iPad app? Oh, wait, you don’t have an iPad.  OK, then, what is your favorite color and why?

Eric: Very funny Dawn. I am still waiting on Nelnet to have an iPad competition. I do have an iPhone though, so my favorite app is Angry Birds, lol. My favorite color is blue. Not sure why but I just have always loved that color. My closet has way more blue clothes than any other color.

Dawn: Who within the financial aid community has been your mentor?

Eric: Wow, that’s a tough one…I would have to pick two people. The first is my former Assistant Vice President of Loan Servicing, Pam Calaman, at PHEAA. Since my start in the industry, she has always pushed me to better myself and really helped to develop my leadership skills that have led to much success in my career. The second is my current Vice President of Compliance and Financial Aid, Reba Williams; she is extremely knowledgeable in every aspect of the industry. She has helped me to see the whole picture and expand my knowledge past the servicing arena, in addition to best strategies in our ever-changing environment with the new regulations impacting the for-profit sector.

Dawn: Where do you think schools should focus their efforts with regard to default prevention strategies given the industry’s move to a 3-year CDR model?

Eric: The main focus should be to take a proactive role instead of reactive role by educating students on the entire student loan life cycle and the resources available to help them be successful after they leave the school. So many schools just focus on packaging and give a very brief discussion on what happens after they leave school. Schools need to be very proactive now and get the students to understand that financial aid is not just grants and that these loans will not go away and will have severe consequences if not repaid.

Dawn: Do you have any tips for schools on a subject of your choice?

Eric: The first thing that comes to mind is really to just work with every department in your school when it comes to default prevention efforts because every department has an effect on the CDR. Educate the entire campus on what default prevention does and how the CDR effects everyone, not just the Financial Aid department.

Dawn: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Eric: I wanted to be a Wall Street tycoon, lol. Thankfully that didn’t pan out, especially in today’s economy.

Dawn: What is your favorite food?

Eric: Wings!!!!

Dawn: Name one thing that many people do not know about you.

Eric: That’s a difficult question. I am truly an open book to a fault. I think people probably know way more than they should, lol.

Dawn:  That is one of my favorite things about you, Eric!  I also love your no-holes-barred (what does that phrase mean exactly?) FB postings.  I also like that I have an iPad and you don’t.

Dawn: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in your world (work or otherwise) what would it be?

Eric:  Financial aid students would be held more accountable when taking out financial aid. Not so much of the burden would fall on the schools. They really need to take away the ability to have students manage their own funds. On a non-work related note, people would be more open-minded and respectful of each other.

Dawn Knight, Western Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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